After Revision

I turned in the revision yesterday morning before work. The weekend was spent doing only that; on Sunday I think I worked at it for 11+ hours. There were moments when I felt sure I couldn’t finish, but somehow I did finish, looking back I don’t know how. Then, after it was all over, I spent the entire day recovering—I am not sure how I was physically able to be at work, doing my job, but I was there and no one seemed to notice. Now, it’s a new morning and I have a growing headache. I could curl into a ball under the table at my morning writing spot right now… I could, but the floor is pretty grungy, so I won’t.

I’ve wondered how freelance writers can bang out these manuscripts on such tight schedules—if they can do it, I can do it, I said—but in reality I think maybe the freelance writers who are doing this don’t have full-time jobs. As for me, after doing both… let’s just say I’m exhausted.

What My Locker Reveals

Inside the storage locker at my weekend writing spot are the following items that I keep on hand in case I might need them at a moment’s notice:

  • 1 black sweater
  • 1 used plastic bag, for covering laptop if it rains
  • 1 Antioch Review magazine
  • 1 You Can Write for Children Writers Digest Guide
  • 2 Open City magazines
  • 1 large pencil case containing: 1 obligatory pencil (red); 1 stick of deodorant; 1 travel-size bottle of lotion; 1 plastic spoon; 1 plastic fork; 2 pairs of wooden chopsticks; 1 pen without cap; 1 cap without pen; a one-dollar bill (torn); 1 tea bag; 1 possibly three-year-old granola bar; 1 stale Hershey’s Kiss; spilled Nerds; 3 Starbucks straws; 6 Dayquil pills; 1 tower of rainbow-colored sticky notes; loose change amounting to 71 cents
  • 1 Paris Review magazine
  • 1 Vogue magazine
  • 1 incomplete copy of first literary fiction manuscript ever written (unpublished)
  • 1 full copy of second literary fiction manuscript ever written (unpublished)
  • 1 Tin House magazine
  • 3 old drafts of short stories (all unfinished, all unpublished)
  • 3 New Yorker magazines, including one Fiction Issue
  • 2 New York magazines
  • 1 draft of a manuscript for an embarrassing freelance project based on a movie about to hit theaters this summer (published)
  • 2 O Henry Awards anthologies
  • 1 pair of Chinese slippers
  • 1 pair of thermal slippers, a gift from Mom for my month at MacDowell
  • 1 outline of a young adult novel written under a house pseudonym and published a few years ago
  • 1 copy of The Paris Review Book of People with Problems
  • 1 copy of The Paris Review Book for Planes, Trains, Elevators, and Waiting Rooms
  • 2 A Public Space magazines
  • 1 set of colored markers (half missing)
  • 1 copy of Drugs Are Nice: A Post-Punk Memoir
  • Numerous spare Starbucks napkins (loose and crumpled)
  • 1 Bust magazine
  • 1 pair of socks (mismatched)
  • 1 CD backup of hard-drive from 2005

I think the above list reveals a lot about me. Also of note, the locker is the small size: square, about a foot high. It’s crammed so full I can’t fit too much else in there.

You might find it interesting—or pathetic—that I took 15 minutes to make this list, when I am well aware that what I really should be doing is revising.

Finish It Already

“Have a good writing day,” e said to me at the door this morning. “Now finish it already, goddamn it!”

The “it” that has taken residence in the apartment, larger in the room than the largest elephant, is of course the revision.

It is a hurdle to write something you don’t want to write anymore, made worse when there is something you really and truly want to write—all sparkly and begging for you to come close to it—and you can’t touch it yet, you can’t let your hand rest on it for even one second, because you have to attend to the other thing, no matter how ugly it’s looking to you right now.

Sometimes I think writing freelance has been a real lesson for me in following the rules, making myself do things when I just don’t wanna, you know, acting like a grown-up when I am (secretly) not.

Sometimes I think writing freelance been one giant distraction, only that.

Either way, it will soon be over—I must finish it this weekend. No more excuses.

In other news, I sent in my signed contract today. As if all of downtown New York knew that that’s where I was headed this morning, the sidewalks were calm and cleared. I walked into the usually hellish post office to find no line—not a single delay—in walking up to the window to mail it off. I was told it will arrive on Monday. I can’t wait to continue writing that book!

But not yet, not yet. How could I forget the elephant?

I am still recovering from a state of panic from seeing Cloverfield last night, but other than that I’m focused. I’m revising. I have 100 pages to go.

Possible Excuses for Missing Deadline

  • My manuscript was stolen and I only just paid the ransom to get it back.
  • I am allergic to revision and had to take antibiotics and wait for the swelling to go down.
  • Bad spill. Can’t read revision notes.
  • Grizzly bears / wild boars / rabid pigeons ate it.
  • I had a finger injury and lost all ability to type.
  • I am boycotting writing until they free Tibet.
  • My computer started swallowing words until I had nothing left.
  • Alien abduction, a solid excuse for anything, anytime.
  • Gossip Girl / America’s Next Top Model / The Pussycat Dolls Present Girlicious was on TV.
  • Bad case of the hiccups.
  • Violent amnesia. I had a deadline? What, where, when?

Got a better explanation? I’m all ears.

Here I Am Still Revising

Happy Earth Day. Happy Passover. Happy Spring. What day is it again? I am still revising. I am mad-scramble revising, push-it-till-you-drop revising. Can’t-even-form-a-proper-sentence revising. Stop-staring-at-me-from-across-the-room I’m revising. Revising so this can be over. Revising so I don’t take on another freelance assignment like this again. Revising, revising, revising until words have no meaning. When I am at work I should really be revising. When I sleep I should be revising. Right now, typing this, what I should be doing instead is revising. I am at that place in the revision—scribbled comments on all margins, pages in disarray—where it feels like I won’t ever reach the end, where I am revising in circles, revising myself into a box. This story could be eternal, I’m afraid.

I did take a break on Sunday to visit with my sister, though. There is one thing that trumps a deadline, and that’s a little sister.

Oh wait, what’s that noise? It’s my revision screaming at me to get back to work. I have to go! It’s got my feet… it’s dragging me away… see you this weekend, if I can make it through the week…

Losing Antioch

For those of you who may remember my posts from last year about the closing of my college, Antioch College, here’s a very sad update from The New York Times.

This is the worst thing that could have happened. I have often told myself that one day I would publish books and I would give back to the school and contribute to the creative writing program and help make it a better place for those odd, questioning, independent, creative kids who don’t know where they fit in—the kind of kid I once was. But I wasn’t fast enough. My school will close before I can do anything.

The school meant—means—a lot to me. I would not be who I am today without it. I’m not ashamed to say that.